UEL clinch South Premier title
- Credit: Archant
Basketball squad crowned after beating nearest rivals
The University of East London’s men’s basketball team clinched the BUCS South Premier League in front of a full house at SportsDock.
The East Londoners dominated second-place Brunel from start to finish in a decisive 100-65 triumph, giving the university its first-ever premier league title in any sport.
“It’s a great feeling,” said UEL captain and point guard Dougie Bennett. “Leading up to this game, we honed down on our weaknesses, we scouted well for the game and it paid off well.
“It’s a really great achievement. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Upstairs in SportsDock all the way down to the court, it’s a great achievement for all of us.”
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UEL’s seven-foot Leigh Greenan won the opening tip-off to fellow big man Lukas Winegarner, who completed the lay-up and was fouled. Winegarner hit the free throw and UEL led 3-0.
Brunel answered with a three-pointer and took the lead with a free throw. But Bennett set the tone for the UEL offense with two three-pointers and two free throws, while Greenan excited the crowd with a monstrous block.
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Brunel gave UEL more momentum after a breakaway ended in a missed dunk. The visitors called a timeout with the score 11-4 in favour of UEL, but the home side continued to control the game, with Greenan slamming down his first dunk immediately after play resumed.
Bennett hit another free throw and Winegarner completed a one-handed dunk to extend UEL’s lead to 24-11 at the end of the first quarter.
UEL started the second quarter slowly, but with the score at 26-18 after nearly three minutes into the quarter, Greenan made his second dunk of the game.
Aaron Smith then made his presence felt, moving speedily through the Brunel defence for a sneaky lay-up, and then making a skilled manoeuvre that led to a pass to Greenan for an easy finish.
Greenan’s third dunk put Brunel behind 42-24 and, as the half drew to a close, Bennett struck with yet another three-pointer and Jeff Davis also hit for three.
A Greenan lay-up ended the half with UEL comfortably ahead, 50-28.
UEL opened the third quarter with a complete shutdown performance, outscoring Brunel 10-0 in just two minutes.
The highlight of UEL’s run was Will Ashby’s backwards, over-the-head lay-up off a pass from Bennett.
Brunel called another timeout and the momentum shifted slightly as UEL did not score again for three minutes, but their defence was still strong.
“Defensively we stuck to our scouting,” UEL head coach Johnathan Campbell said.
“We did well; you have to play what’s in front of you.”
UEL ended their scoring drought with a fifth three-point shot from Bennett and another from Winegarner. A few minutes later Blayne Freckleton hit a three of his own to send UEL to the final quarter up 71-47.
Freckleton hit two more three-pointers early in the fourth and Lamar Roberts took over the offense for the final three minutes, scoring nine points, including a shot with just seconds left that gave UEL their 100th point.
Bennett added: “We ran the ball. We knew they only came with six players, so we knew we had to run the ball. We had to make them tired.
“We came out all right, knocking down our shots. Coming out strong in the second half was a big one. Everyone who came off the bench produced superbly and that’s the way it’s meant to be.”
Campbell expressed a few more concerns about some “untidy” play, but overall was satisfied with the performance.
“The team really deserved it,” Campbell said. “They’ve put in a good effort all year. It’s great for them, it’s a great achievement.”
UEL will try to end the season undefeated with an away fixture against Bath next week.
UEL defeated Bath 104-37 in their meeting earlier this season at SportsDock.
The East London squad will have several weeks off and then the Final 8s, hosted at SportsDock, take place on March 14-15.
“For us, it’s about Final 8s and going undefeated this year,” Campbell said.
Bennett added: “With this unit, we could go anywhere. We could win Final 8s, we’re that confident.”